workers at two separate warehouse locations now have a union election to vote in. The Amazon Labor Union said Wednesday it had agreed with the e-commerce giant to an election from March 25 to March 30, in person, at a Staten Island warehouse called JFK8. The election will take place as votes are tallied in a different union election in Bessemer, Alabama, on March 28. The Alabama vote is currently underway with vote-by-mail ballots.
The ALU, a fledgling labor group led by current and former Amazon workers, is also aiming to represent workers at another Staten Island facility. No US Amazon warehouses are unionized, and workers rejected the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in a previous vote at the Alabama warehouse.
On Twitter, ALU organizer Christian Smalls gave the election dates and said, "Note the anniversary of the Walkout 2 Years ago." Smalls and other Amazon workers protested in 2020 over COVID-19 protections at the warehouse, and Smalls was subsequently fired for attending the outdoor rally when he was told by Amazon to quarantine for exposure to the virus.
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said Amazon is "skeptical" that enough employees signed the petition requesting the election. "But since the NLRB has decided the election will proceed, we want our employees to have their voices heard as soon as possible," Nantel said. "Our employees have always had a choice of whether or not to join a union, and our focus remains on working directly with our team to make Amazon a great place to work."
The NLRB didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Wednesday's agreement comes as Amazon faces continuing scrutiny for its treatment of warehouse workers and drivers, and as union efforts hit other major Seattle-based companies including Starbucks and REI.
The NLRB has been taking a close look at Amazon's actions during organizing efforts at its facilities. A regional director threw out the result of the first vote in Bessemer, finding that Amazon violated labor laws during the election. The company settled a complaint with the NLRB in December agreeing not to interfere with workers' legal organizing rights and to rescind a rule preventing workers from staying in break areas more than 15 minutes before the start or after then end of a shift. Separately, prosecutors for the NLRB alleged that Amazon interrogated and harassed workers involved in the organizing effort at JFK8 in Staten Island.
Amazon has argued that its workers are better served by direct communication with their managers, and it has portrayed unions as an unnecessary middleman. The company has also hiked starting wages and offered starting bonuses to keep up with staffing needs in a tight labor market. Amazon fell short of its goal of hiring 150,000 new workers over the holidays and reported to investors in February that labor and logistics costs will continue to rise. The costs also prompted to company to raise the cost of Prime memberships.
In a screenshot of a text that Smalls said Amazon sent to JFK8 workers, Amazon informed workers of the new election date and made it clear how it thinks employees should vote. (Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the screenshot).
"We encourage every eligible associate at JFK8 to vote in the election, make your voice heard, and vote NO," the screenshot of the text says.